In recent Newsletters I’ve made my contention clear that I believe the large brick and mortar bookstore will sadly become a thing of the past, and sooner rather than later. I noticed recently that Books-a-Million is placing Espresso Book Machines in their stores in Birmingham, Alabama, and Portland, Maine. This might seem insane, as it will cannibalize sales, but in reality I find this to be clever retailing, since a book that’s not in stock can be printed within the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. I have also predicted seeing this equipment in every Starbucks before it’s all done. I’ve certainly found Starbucks in many B&Ns, so why not reverse the process?
Starbucks’s CEO Howard Schultz isn’t aware of my plans for his stores, ha ha, but I’m using his company only as an example of what I view as the perfect platform for book buyers having their selection(s) printed while they enjoy a cup of their favorite latte and a cookie. Pricing for POD books at Books-a-Million wasn’t listed, but I’m going to assume this will sync with regular retail, as it will keep people who want a title in hardcopy from going to Amazon or a competitor.
Once it’s determined that an Espresso Book Machine can be cost-justified related to the small space it consumes, all sorts of business scenarios can play out, ranging from straight-out purchases to capital leases to off-off balance sheet “click plans,” the latter for which Starbucks would have zero outlay for the machines and pay for each book only as it’s purchased. Just a thought because the times they are a changin’.